Four years in the lives of four home economics students at Iowa State University.
This idealized story of four years in the life of Kay, Jean, Helen, and Louise evokes the lost world of Iowa State's Home Economics Division in the fifties. When an assembly speaker at the high school talks of girls who studied home economics in college, Kay is smitten. But it is a big thing for someone in her family to attend college. She convinces her parents to make the sacrifice and is so eager to leave that she is packing her bags just minutes after receiving her acceptance letter. There is more than a hint here that she wants something more than her family or high school can ordinarily offer. "What is home economics?" the narrator asks, hinting at the field's complexity: it is an interdisciplinary field that unites the arts and
sciences with traditionally female activities, thus feminizing many otherwise neutral activities. In home economics, physics classes teach toaster-testing, and women chemists study the interaction of tomato soup and milk. Says the narrator: "All the classes seemed to fit together. Even the physics class was what a girl would like. It was about physics in the home. This course helped you to understand just what makes things run. Then, in household equipment, you could study the practical side: the use of an appliance. In turn, there were courses in foods and nutrition where you learned the why as well as the how." As a discipline, home economics looks both forward and backward. Although it enables women to leave the home and play essential roles in institutions, corporations, and schools ("She could see herself at the center of a world made up of large ovens and mixers manned by professional cooks"), home economists' work, seen as "women's work," has not been valued as highly as less essential work that happens to be performed by men. Even the professionalization of the home economics sphere has not kept its activities from being taken for granted. Historically connected to social movements like progressivism, to the empowering of women and immigrants, and to activism in the service of public health, home economics has a socially active side as well. Although The Home Economics Story expresses all of these (except social activism), the film emphasizes over and over that, most important of all, the training enables women to take care of their families and children. "Each girl has been preparing for two careers. One her chosen specialty, the other is a
career in homemaking." The students are not allowed to forget that they will be women first and home economists second. Kay fantasizes herself as a wife putting her training into practice at home. And there is a pitch for a traditionally female focus on emotions and psychology rather than on the material world: "The girls learn a lot from the children of the nursery school . . . how habits and attitudes learned at this stage are so
important in later life. They learn how much depends on getting along with others . . . for, after all, we live in a world where people are more important than things."
The Home Economics Story is also a great evocation of fifties college life, rich in culture and prescribed rituals; interestingly enough, at least in the home ec division, it is a world made up almost exclusively of women. Although a few football players and a prom date or two come and go, these four girls and their classmates spend four years together; their last year they even live together in the Home Management house. Louise has "the most envied task"-taking care of a baby. This is a free space for women to learn
among themselves, single-sex education at its most rarefied-at least until Beth first sports her wedding ring.
Iowa State College's Film Production Unit made many films relating to home economics, including Yarn About a Kitchen (1955), a time-and-motion study of meal preparation, in which the woman's movements are marked by a three-dimensional trail of yarn throughout the kitchen. As a university production, The Home Economics Story is fascinating to watch and compare with other educational and sponsored films of its time. There are a number of technical glitches involving sound and picture, and I have a persistent feeling that the movie was handed off to different directors during its production. Nonetheless its fair-to-middling production values seem appropriate for a self-promotional and self-published film, and it reminds us how 16mm production enabled so many institutions to turn to film as a way of reaching the public with their stories.
DESCRIBES KAY'S EXPERIENCES AS SHE ENTERS HOME ECONOMICS PROGRAM AT IOWA STATE. PORTRAYS PRACTICAL TRAINING STUDENTS RECEIVE & SUGGESTS VARIETY OF CAREERS OPEN TO THEM. SHOWS ADVANTAGES OF TRAINING FOR FUTURE FAMILY LIFE & ENHANCED PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Ken Smith sez: Mom and Dad have an important decision to make. Would it be "worth the sacrifice" to send their daughter Kay to college? You bet it would, the narrator explains, as Kay can prepare herself for a "wonderful future" in home economics. Career choices range from "tea-room manager" to "food buymanship," and courses include "Physics" (with a toaster and electric mixer as lab equipment) and "Applied Chemistry" (where the girls learn the proper way to make Cream of Tomato soup). Kay no doubt found herself a good husband after graduation.
Probably inspired by Footsteps To The Future, "a recruiting film designed to interest the high school girl and her parents in the study of home economics at the university level, both as a preparation for successful homemaking and for a career," produced in early 1948 by the Iowa State Department of Photography for its School of Home Economics.
Camera pans around library full of students
MCU Kay daydreaming at a desk of 3 girls
MCU Alice (in glasses) reading
CU Kay daydreaming
Students collect books and get up when bell rings
Only girls file into room and sit down (MCU)
MCU At lectern, man and then woman who begins to speak about what girls can do after high school
MCU Tearoom and waitress serving; MCU cafeteria line, women in white uniforms serving food.
"Now she is a tearoom manager, and the thousands of people who eat out daily are her customers"
"She could see herself at the center of a world
made up of large ovens and mixers..."
( Jane? ) talking on telephone ( CU )
Woman sitting at desk with great multicolored
patterned curtains behind her. (JoAnn)
MCU JoAnn straightening multicolored chair by window
MCU Woman in white hat with blue bow enters and opens purse to give JoAnn set of keys.
MCU camera looking up at building as woman in green dress walks by - interesting angle
Camera pans towards card with woman and map of U.S. that reads DIETITIANS IN DEMAND
VS Women at drawing table, desk and typewriter, opening freezer, etc.
MCU Mice in circular cages: hand on right holds white mouse and feeds it with dropper
MCU Wife in foreground looking at magazine, Husband in background reading newspaper - interesting angle
"...preparing her for that very important role of being Mrs. Johnson"
VS Mrs. Johnson doing wifely duties - serving, sewing
MCU Back to all girls sitting in lecture hall; all girls applaud, except Kay - who belatedly raises hands and claps hesitantly
MCU Girls sitting at library desk
CU Kay looking at shelf of books - shot from behind, she chooses book, flips through it
Narrator - "And oh yes -- what would Mom and Dad say?"
CU Closed book - PROBLEMS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY textbook
MCU Kay and her family at table - flowered wallpaper behind them
VS/CU Kay and various members of her family
CU Father nodding his head
MCU Father nodding his head, Kay breaking into a smile
Kay at desk writing, puts pen in her mouth
Kay mails letter with friend staring at her from behind; letter arrives - mother wipes her hands on her apron as Kay opens letter
MCU Kay packing suitcase - shot of Kay's torso and open suitcase on bed as she packs
Kay puts hand to mouth in embarrassment as mother enters the room.
MLS Kay and her parents at college - outside with suitcase; 2 students with tennis racket over their shoulders walk through
MCU Interior - Kay, parents and dorm attendant; Kay signs paper as parents watch; CU attendant giving Kay a key
CU of door: door opens and in walk Kay and parents
VS Kay and parents in dorm room, looking bewildered, unpacking
MCU Kay by herself in her dorm room
Roommate arrives (Jean)
2 more coeds arrive at Kay's room
VS 4 college coeds - interior and exterior
College couples dancing arm in arm
VS students walking up stairs to college hall
VS Kay and girls in Applied Art class
Aerial shot of 2 girls plugging in electric mixer in Physics class
Girl with household appliance
MCU Instructor at blackboard with glasses of juice
MCU girl swimming with bathing cap on
MCU girls and boys square dancing
VS female college students engaging in bowling, basketball, badminton, golf, volleyball, tennis, archery, modern dance
Kay and roommate in room (VS)
VS Kay and friends as sophomores in dorm room
Aerial shot of 2 burners, 3 pairs of hands - one pair of hands making cream of tomato soup
VS Preparation of tomato soup with milk
VS girl putting nail polish and acetone on fabric
MLS 3 girls studying two half length mannequins that are wearing identical skirts
VS 2 girls putting doll furniture in doll size room
Shot of football stadium crowd in bleachers
CU head and shoulders of majorette
MLS Band on football field
MCU male & female cheerleaders
MCU football player catching ball
MCU kids at coffee shop
MCU girls in dorm room for gab session
VS/CU individual girls
"I don't know yet if I want to work for a household appliance company or whether to go on with my art work..."
MCU Kay with her advisor
VS women working
MCU woman hanging up curtain
CU hand setting down plate of food: peas, meat,
CU hands setting down tray of food
MCU 4 girls rolling and fixing dough
MCU woman checking iron
VS woman designing clothing and checking material, wearing finished dress
VS ladies silk screening material
MCU Kay teaching children (VS)
CU Kay at desk, lampshade reads in large red letters, KAY
CU Kay's hands writing letter; camera pans to formal dress on bed
MLS 2 girls coming down steps in formal dresses, dates wait at bottom of stairs
VS/CU Kay hanging mementos (dance cards) on a memory chain
VS Kay and friends in various classes
MCU HOME ECONOMICS Bldg lintel held up by 2 Ionic columns
Kay & 3 friends walk from school building towards camera
Kay and others sitting around couch with advisor
MCU girl entering with basket of food into kitchen
MCU girl arranging flowers in basket
MCU girl putting laundry in old fashioned washer
MCU girl playing with baby
VS girls in home, Beth walks in with a wrapped present (box of chocolates) she accepts it in surprise
CU Kay looks at Beth's engagement ring
MCU Kay at placement office, Various girls in office
CU of hand in graduate's robe receiving diploma, hand with red nail polish
VS Kay and parents posing for graduation pictures
MLS girls at train station with suitcases
Another shot list:
group of teens studying in high school study hall, boy walks through room carrying book, camera moves, begins to focus on three sitting at table.
MCU girl studying, wearing glasses, she looks up.
teens sitting, boy walks in from left, sits down at table, pokes girl in hair before doing so.
MCU girl, thinking thoughtful expression on face.
LS girl thinking, other teens sitting doing homework, they begin to get books together, stand up, leave room, boy waves to girl, they enter room with metal fold up chairs, MCU girls sitting down.
man standing at podium
three girls sitting, girls on outside poke girl in between them, getting her to look up.
man standing at podium speaking, he begins to walk away as woman is approaching podium.
MCU woman speaking at podium, out of sync; about girls who decided to pursue a college course in home economics
people eating in restaurant (called a "tearoom" in Midwest parlance)
woman cooking in institutional kitchen
MCU girl in office sitting talking on phone looking down at piece of paper.
woman sitting at desk, closes books, stands up, walks to chair, begins to move it, stops, walks around it; woman wearing black suit reaches into black pocket book, takes out key, hands it to other girl, they walk through room.
girl comes in from right carring piece of fabric, places it on desk, begins to lift it up, looking at it; picks up fabric, along with book walking away.
CU building, girl walks by
yellow BG, poster, profile of woman on left, United States on right words over top.
woman sitting at desk, man standing over her, he leans over, begins drawing.
woman sitting at desk, filing cabinets BG, she looks at picture, begins typing.
woman wearing white dress walking down sidewalk from house
two women looking at fabric
woman looking at light bulbs
woman supervising children playing
two women baking
laboratory scene: woman's hand holding mouse, giving it some liquid from dropper; scale, cages in BG
young boy sitting at table, woman standing, looking down at him, boy is holding book, hands it to woman, books in selves in BG.
three women building bookshelves
woman weighing things on scale
CU magazine, zooms in a little during shot
CU reads - Furniture by Rachel Martens
woman sitting on sofa looking at paper, man in BG also looking at paper, she flips pages, he moves paper around, yellow flowers in vase on coffee table. picture still remains same, but people are now different. woman gets up, leaves room, walks back holding blue clothing, MCU woman walks over to sitting man, shows him cloth.
woman sitting on sofa sewing fabric
four people sitting around table eating, man on right rubs back of woman to his right, woman on left reaches over, touches woman's arm.
two woman looking at crafts, toys, dolls on shelves in BG.
woman sitting on floor playing with baby.
teen girls sitting, listening to someone speaking, they begin to clap.
three girls sitting at table, BG has books in shelves; girl on right begins to look up at books, she stands up, looks at them (using her pointing finger as guide), takes one.
CU open book on desk, hands are flipping pages, finger is searching through text of book, takes piece of paper to mark page, closes book.
two adults, two teens sitting around table discussing whether Kay should apply for admission to college, girl opens college catalog.
MCU woman, girl looking at book
MCU man, woman looking at each other, they then begin to look at book, flipping pages.
CU text of book, man's fingers on left holding book mark, pages are flipped.
CU man's face, someone standing behind him.
four people, three sitting, one standing. standing boy walks back behind in between the two adults.
girl sitting writing letter, puts pen in mouth, points it at paper, begins writing again.
trees, lamp post, mail box, two girls walk into picture from right, walk to mailbox (dark shot)
MCU two girls, girl on left places letter in mailbox.
girl walks into room, picks up letter leaning aganist potted plant woman walks into picture from left; wiping hands on apron as girl is ripping open college acceptance letter. girl sets down envolpe, reads letter, looks at woman with happy smile, hugs her, sets down letter, runs out of room.
girl packing suitcase, woman walks, smiling at girl, girl on knees looking up at woman with hand over mouth.
The remainder of the film takes place on the campus of Iowa State College, now Iowa State University, at Ames, Iowa.
MLS man, woman, girl standing by trunk of car, garden in BG; couple walks by carring lamps, man, woman, girl proceed to walk on side walk toward camera, looking around.
MCU woman, girl standing, talking to woman sitting at dormitory check-in desk, she opens little books,(man walks behind them) woman gets up from behind desk, picks up key, as girl writes in book, girl closes book, takes key.
College dormitory room: wall with wooden door, door opens, girl, woman, man enter room; radiator, bed in BG, they look around, girl sits on bed.
MCU girl, woman unpacking
MS girl, woman, man sitting down; man looks at watch, stands up, followed by woman, girl. man, woman leave room, girl watches them leave, turns, bites finger nails, looks out window, sits down on bed, looks at woman's picture picking it up, CU of girl's face. another girl walks in door, they walk over to each other talking they sit down, two other girls walk into room, first girl taps on already open door, they all say hello to each other.
MLS three girls, two sitting at table, other sitting on cement wall behind them. fourth girl walks into picture carrying tray with drinks they each take one.
LS water pool with spray in center, tall clock tower in BG. girls walk over to pool, sit on edge.
four girls walking down sidewalk, backs faced to camera.
MS three girls sitting on edge of water pool sticking hands in water center girl throughs coin in water.
College students dancing
girls walking up stairs in front of college building (Home Economics Hall at ISU)
people walking into building
girls standing at top of staircase, holding books looking to left, girl in front waves hand, another runs up stairs to catch up with them.
girl working on art project, camera pans to another girl also working on art project.
girl holding fabric, standing looking at mirror; other girl comes in, stands in front of mirror holding fabric over body.
birds-eye view, two girls sitting at table looking at appliances.
girl in kitchen using blender
woman standing at blackboard, pointing at text written on board, she is teaching class, turns picking up glass.
water, girl swimming
girls playing basketball
girl playing badminton
girls playing golf
girls playing volleyball
girls playing tennis
girl playing archery
girls learning ballet (modern dance)
girl sitting on bed, another on floor, they are wearing night clothes looking at book
MCU girl sitting on floor, pans down side of bed, CU of bed spread color pattern it dissolves into different pattern (showing passage of one year's time) panning up to girl making bed, another girl comes in behind her, they hug then sit on bed, two other girls walk into picture carrying books, one girl drops book on floor.
CU book on floor, girl sitting on bed picks up book
MCU girl sitting on bed
profile shot girl standing
birds-eye view girls cooking, pouring contents of one pot into another
(Narrator discusses chemistry for women as being concerned with cooking and mixtures)
CU of pot's contents, spoon held over pot, stirring it often.
birds-eye view cooking, mixing contents together, CU pot's contents being stirred
MCU girl conducting experiments on cloth.
women looking at two skirts on dummies, comparing the two, woman turns dummies, pointing at certain areas of skirts.
MS two women arranging miniature furniture in miniature room, woman's hand points at certain pieces, CU miniature room being rearranged
crowd of people sitting in football stadium
CU marching band leader blowing whistle, twirling baton
high shot of stadium, marching band performing in center
cheerleaders cheering on crowdd
football player catching ball, #17 on back of jeresy.
College restaurant, hangout after football game; teens sitting around, boy walks through room, pulls up chair sitting down at table, wearing letter sweater.
five girls sitting around in bedroom eating/drinking, talking.
MCU girl, VS of each girl talking
girl talking with woman, they are sitting at desk, CU of girl thinking.
low shot of two girls talking
woman exiting building, looking both ways
woman handing food to child in bed.
woman conducting research
women, children gathered around table
girl hanging curtains
girls walking toward building on sidewalk, walk up stairs, past camera, entering building
CU table setting, girls hand places entree to make setting complete
woman carrying tray of food, places it on table, uncovering main dish.
woman cooking large amounts of food
CU women twirling dough
VS woman working with appliances
girl making skirt
MCU girl working on drawing, looking at fabric, profile shot.
CU of design along with fabric
girl pinning dress together
girl walking through door, shutting door, walks down stairs, as if modeling dress she is wearing
two girls painting fabric, CU of fabric design
girl standing, holding notebook, watching children play
woman playing with children, VS
woman standing over children, ties bib onto one child
woman, children sitting at table eating
CU young girl eating
two women sitting down facing camera, three children with backs to camera
girl sitting head leaning on hand, lamp to right, shade reads KAY in red letters
CU girl writing letter
MS girl writing letter, turns looks behind her at dress on bed
MS dress on bed
Before the junior prom: two girls in formal dresses walking down stairs, two boys in tuxs waiting at bottom, they pair off walking away.
MCU girl in formal dress hanging booklet on wall with others
CU girl's hands adjusting booklets hanging on wall
five girls in kitchen, three sitting, two standing with aprons on, woman walks into picture from left
girl sitting at table looking at books, examing fabric, there are designs along with finished outfits in BG
girl, woman weighing things on scale
girl working with house hold equipment, walks over to oven placing some thing in it.
building that reads "Home Economics", CU
MCU, VS girls standing in front of Home Ec building
LS, four girls walking on side walk away from building, toward camera
woman sitting on sofa surrounded by six girls
girl walks through door on right carrying basket full of food, sets it down, opens cupboard door, takes off gloves, girl walks in from left, other girl hands her list, she looks at it, picks up one item.
girl arranging flowers on table in dinning room, another girl comes in setting down plates
MS girl loading washing machine
girl on floor with baby
woman sitting on sofa surrounded by six girls
woman sitting on chair looking at book, girl standing over her looking at it also, girl walks in holding gift behind her back
MS woman sitting in green chair, smiling
MS girl sitting in chair, stands up grabing hand of already standing girl, pulling her to sit down
MCU girl looking at other girl's ring, girl wearing ring has gift on lap, MS people gathering looking at girl's ring, looking happy, smiling
woman, girl sitting at table talking, woman hands girl piece of paper, over shoulder shot of woman talking to girl, VS woman talking to girl.
CU people recieving diploma's, shaking hands
woman taking picture of graduate with parent's BG has building
MCU graduate, parent's
CU man smiling
people gathering on lawn, some with suitcases
three girls waiting at train station, fourth comes in from right
four girls talking waiting for train
MCU two girls talking
four girls waiting for train, train pulls in to station for ending
12:38:20:14 - 12:28:27:00
SEX ROLES HOUSEWORK MEN COLLEGES UNIVERSITIES KITCHENS CHEMISTRY PHYSICS FOOD PREPARATION COOKING LEISURE RECREATION DANCING ROOMS BEDS FASHION TEXTILES FABRICS APPLIANCES INTERIORS EXTERIORS CAMPUSES DATING ROMANCE CAKES PARENTS FAMILIES EDUCATION BEHAVIOR NARRATIVES SQUARE DANCING HUMOR SOCIAL GUIDANCE TEACHERS CLASSROOMS LABORATORIES RESEARCH Home economics Women Gender roles Colleges and universities Students Dormitories Education Physics Boys Girls Libraries (school) Schools Daydreams Thoughtfulness Class clowns Immaturity Teenagers Assemblies (high-school) Podiums Speakers (high-school assemblies) Lectures Tearooms Restaurants Hats (women's) Kitchens Workers (food service) Workers (restaurants) Steam tables Telephones Telephone calls (women making) Offices Curtains Drapery Fashions (1950s) Interior design (1950s) Interior decorating Fabric Swatches Textile design Brochures Colleges and universities (catalogs) Typing Children Light bulbs Tricycles Scales Couples (at home) Reading (newspapers and magazines) Newspapers (reading) Gender roles Sewing Affection Maternal roles Mothers Affection Babies Playing Applause Pigtails Hands (on book) Books (hands on) Families (in conference) Writing Letters (mailing) Mailboxes Mail (receiving) Letters (receiving) Excitement Embraces Happiness Suitcases (packing) Colleges and universities (registration) Colleges and universities (dormitories) Dormitories (college) Rooms (dormitory) Keys Goodbyes Farewells Loneliness Photographs (of mother, framed) Mothers (in photographs) Sentimentality Roommates Fountains Iowa State University (sponsor) Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa Clocktowers Buildings (colleges and universities) Walking (three young women) Dancing Steps (women ascending) Classrooms Design Decorative arts Art (classes) Art education Mirrors Costume design Physics (in the home) Experiments (home economics) Kitchens (test) Appliances Teachers (at blackboard) Blackboards (with teachers) Swimming (in pool) Swimming pools Swimming (backstroke) Dance and dancing Clapping Leisure Recreation Bowling Sports Basketball (indoor) Badminton Lesbians (by appearance) Golf Tennis Volleyball Archery Dance and dancing (modern) Modern dance Dance studios Reading Beds (making)
March 20, 2013 Subject:
Home Economics Film Interests
Learning about the home is very important in the 1950's.
The girls and college administraters are very busy seeing to those teachings. Learning how to use and enjoy a home at the most economical effort. Building adult relationships as well as knowledge is important. Just because the girls leave home and go to college for HE in the 1950's means a sacrifice for their parents. This is an excellent film. It shows a teenager about college, and family.
February 10, 2004 Subject:
A girl's opportunity to attend college
A high school girls interest in home economics becomes a way for her to legitimize her desire to attend college. Its easy to ridicule these films, but underneath all their corny imagery we can see how hard it was for girls to have any real educational opportunities after high school. At the time this film was made, many parents didnt see the need for their daughters to attend college. Would Kay, the girl in this film, be allowed to go to college at all if she wasnt majoring in Home Economics? Probably not. I particularly liked the scenes with Kay and her parents poring over the college application. Kay could be the first in her family to go to college and the voice-over reminds us, College for Kay would mean sacrifices for Mom and Dad. Would it be worth the sacrifice? When Kays college acceptance letter comes in the mail, her mother, humbly wiping her hands on her apron, is standing at her side. Kay has an chance for a larger life that her mother was denied.
November 1, 2003 Subject:
Meanwhile, in another universe..
Very whopper laden tale of four girls taking HoemEconomics at college. If you thought HE was just textiles and food, well you're WRONG1 It also includes Physics! and Chemistry1 The narrator is quick to point our however, that all of this can be tied in with house work.As a matter of fact, some people take the HE courses in college for a career as being a house wife! Oh brother. Very strange, badly edited and highly reccomended!
February 28, 2003 Subject:
The film isn't terribly interesting as an ISU recruiting film. But the dated social stereotypes are amusing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 spoofed this film at some point and it's a riot.
November 2, 2002 Subject:
The Home Economics Story (Full Film)
I have a special affection for this film, meant to encourage 40's teenage girls to study home economics at Iowa State College. Since it's for both the girls and their parents, it tries to make college life look like a swell time while reassuring the parents that it will properly train their daughters to assume their proper roles as wives and mothers. There's a large implication that convincing parents to spend money on college for girls will be a tough sell. They don't make 'em like this anymore (thank goodness!).
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****. Also available on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Epsode #317: Viking Women vs. the Sea Serpent.